JOHN McGrath has set his sights on earning Burton Albion a promotion push and himself a new contract after putting 11 months of injury misery behind him.
The Brewers club captain made his first start since February last year as they lost 2-0 to Leicester City in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.
The 32-year-old hopes to keep his place when they return to League Two action after putting a serious foot injury behind him.
He said: “I’ve been here six years now. It’s a club that’s close to my heart.
“Burton Albion Football Club has brought the best out of me as a player.
“My contract is up at the end of the season and I’d love to stay.
“So long as we do well I’m happy.
“For me it could have been Fleetwood Town, York City or Leicester City.
“So as long as I was in the starting XI on Saturday it didn’t matter.
“The result mattered but I just enjoyed playing again.
“That’s what I intend to do for the rest of the season and hopefully my first league start is just round the corner.
“To go through my operation and miss pre-season made it tough being out.
“When I did it I knew it was sore but it got diagnosed for a few weeks.
“I went to London to see a specialist and suddenly you are missing a ligament from the top of your foot.
“It set me back but I had my wife and kids around me.
“I always knew I’d get fit.
“The gaffer said in the paper it was like having a new player with me back.
“Whether it’s me pushing Jack Dyer, Lee Bell or Robbie Weir on to better performances or me starting, hopefully I can help cement our place in the play-offs.
“In my view the gaffer has got four of the best central midfielders in League Two to choose from.”
The former Aston Villa and Doncaster Rovers man felt making his return against a Championship side was a challenge, but he was delighted to play regardless.
“It was hard because in certain circumstances in a League Two game if you put enough pressure on the ball it will break.
“I’ve made my name over the years by closing people down.
“If you close at the wrong time against players like Andy King they’ll skip by you.
“I felt good during the first half.
“I wish I’d played 90 but the gaffer might have thought I was tiring.
“Nothing is like Saturday afternoon at three o’clock when you’re on the pitch,” he said.
McGrath felt the Brewers gave a decent account of themselves, but going into the break 2-0 down made life difficult.
“I think us conceding after three minutes didn’t help us.
“Our game plan changes and we’ve got to come out.
“They can pick you off.
“Being two down after 25 mnutes was tough.
“We gave it a go but it wasn’t to be.
“I don’t think we disgraced ourselves.
“They beat a good Huddersfield team 6-1 last week,” he said.
McGrath has now turned his attention to playing his part in their League Two promotion push.
He feels they are well placed to do so after manager Gary Rowett strengthened the squad over the summer.
“Last year I got injured there was Jack Dyer and if god forbid Jack got injured there was no one.
“We’ve added a bit of steel. Zander Diamond has come in, Damian McCrory, Stuart Tomlinson and Dean Lyness has done well when called upon.
“We’ve got strength in depth this year when last year we didn’t quite have that,” he said.